Lost Gulch Overlook, or Lost Gulch Lookout as it’s also known, is one of the most popular places in Boulder, CO for engagement sessions, elopements, senior portraits, and just hanging out and watching the sunset without having to hike up a mountain.
As a Loveland-based elopement photographer, I’ve done my fair share of shoots at Lost Gulch, and picked up some tricks along the way. If you’re reading this post, chances are you’re either a photographer doing research on locations, or a couple who wants to elope or have engagement sessions done at Lost Gulch. Keep reading — I’ll have info for all of you in this post!
What’s the best time for photos at Lost Gulch?
Since Lost Gulch faces west toward the Continental Divide, it’s a great place to watch sunset and get that beautiful golden hour backlighting. But sunset is also the busiest time of day here, and you’re unlikely to ever have the overlook to yourselves at sunset. On weekend evenings, there are often multiple photo shoots happening at the same time — I’ve seen as many as seven different photographers there with clients at the same time. If you’re hoping for some privacy, and don’t wanna have other people in the background of your photos, I’d highly recommend avoiding weekends at sunset here.
My personal favorite time to shoot at Lost Gulch is at sunrise on weekdays. It’s much more quiet, even if there’s a small chance of running into another photographer or random hiker, and the lighting when the sun hits the mountains in the background is soft and gorgeous. Within an hour after sunrise, the sun is hitting the overlook directly, and the light quickly gets too harsh for photos unless it’s an overcast day.
Do I need a permit to shoot at Lost Gulch?
Yes, you do! Any photographer who is taking photos for commercial purposes at Lost Gulch needs a permit from Boulder Open Space & Mountain Parks. If you’re getting paid to do photos, or you’re using the photos to market your business on your website or social media, you need a permit. If you’re going up there to watch the sunset with a friend and taking photos of each other for Instagram, you don’t need a permit (unless you’re an influencer and getting paid for the posts).
It costs $50 for a limited annual permit, which includes up to 50 visitors in one calendar year (photographer + two clients = 3 visitors), or $300 for an unlimited annual permit. You will need to submit a certificate of insurance that names Boulder OSMP for all permit applications.
Apply for your Boulder OSMP Permit online.
Can I fly a drone at Lost Gulch?
No, flying a drone anywhere on Boulder OSMP lands is illegal. Please, please, please do not fly your drone here. All trailheads in Boulder have clear “no drones allowed” signage, and rangers will write you a ticket if they see it happening.
How to elope at Lost Gulch Overlook
Boulder OSMP requires all elopements with guests to book one of their designated venues. For simple elopements with no guests, you can elope at Lost Gulch as long as your photographer has the OSMP photo permit, and you follow all other rules of the space. You can not use decorations or furniture here, so no floral arrangements on the ground, no ceremony arches, chairs, tables, rugs, candles, or other decor.
Practical info for Lost Gulch
Lost Gulch Overlook is located at 4300 Flagstaff Rd in Boulder. The drive up there is a winding mountain road with sharp curves and low speed limits. Please drive carefully — it’s a popular road for cyclists, and local hiking trails cross the road in different spots so keep an eye out for hikers. It’s also common to have deer run across the road, especially before sunrise and after sunset.
If your car is registered in Boulder County, you do not need to pay for parking at Lost Gulch. If your car is registered elsewhere, there is a $5 parking fee for Lost Gulch and most other parking areas on Flagstaff Mountain. You will see signs for parking fee stations on the drive up there, and can also pay in the Lost Gulch parking lot. You will need $5 in cash — it’s a self-processed envelope system.
Whatever you do, do not wear high heels for photos at Lost Gulch Overlook. The trail from the parking area to the overlook is short, but rocky and uneven — you will need flats, and ideally ones with good tread so you’re not slipping on the rocks. In winter, the rocks can be deceptively slippery from ice even if they look dry. There are steep drop-offs from the overlook, so I would not recommend this location if you’re afraid of heights, or for family photos with young children.